Monday, April 4, 2011

Something wicked this way comes…

Genghis Khan: 13th-century Mongolian tyrant by Enid A. Goldberg and Norman Itzkowitz (950.2 GoG 2008) is part of the A Wicked History series.

While looking for resources to beef-up the Doucette Library’s collection of books about tyrannical leaders, I came across this series. I must admit, it was the books’ cover art that caught my eye.

The cover for Genghis Khan is illustrated with a drawn likeness of the titular man complete in armor, sword and a hard-nosed or ruthless look.  In fact, the word ‘ruthless’ is scrawled, graffiti-like, across the figure so, as a reader we have no doubt on opening this book that we will become better acquainted with one of the all-time tough guys of history.

And the book does just that. It provides enough information to take us into the time and place of 13th-century Mongolia.  It gives a context for how Temujin (Genghis Khan’s birth name) grew up (kills older brother at a very young age for starters), structure of society (tribe based, alliances critical for survival) and the qualities that honed Temujin into a ‘ruthless’ leader.

Included are a ‘wicked web’ showing significant people in Genghis Khan’s life, a section with images (mostly art images) depicting people and important events, a map, a timeline, a glossary and bibliographical/additional information.  Perfect for report writing.

I didn’t find the writing all that bloodthirsty.  I had an expectation that it was going to have more hype about the brutality of Genghis Khan.  The brutality and killing are dealt with but presented in such a way that it seems to be more a necessary evil that Genghis Khan didn’t kill just for the sake of killing. He did it so his enemies would understand exactly what price was to be paid if they crossed him or to those allies who would consider betraying him.  He really was ruthless, make no mistake, but he wasn’t a psychopath either.

I’ve only started looking at the other books I’ve purchased in the series and will likely read them in the near future.  There is a fascination with historical (celebrity) figures out-of-control (Charlie Sheen, anyone?), gone bad or off the rails and these books are looking to appeal to kids on that level.  The writing and information are sound enough and pretty straightforward.  The format of the books, I think, works too (these are not your typical ‘history’ textbooks) and will work best for kids in the middle grades, or for senior high students who find their textbooks too difficult to understand.

Other leaders found in this series include, Attila the Hun, Catherine the Great, Adolf Hitler, Napoleon, Otto Von Bismark, Vlad the Impaler, Idi Amin, Mao Zedong and many others.

Bad boys, bad boys… what’cha’gonna do?

Today is Nonfiction Monday, a round up of blogs about nonfiction children's literature.  Today's event is at L.L. Owens.  Take a look.


Anonymous said...

I think the one thing I really like about this series is that they are longer biographies, even if it is just formatting. We have so many kids who are assigned a biography that has to be 100 pgs.

Books4Learning said...

I am not familar with this series of books. I'll have to check it out. Thanks.

Tammy Flanders said...

I hadn't thought about the length of the book as a critical factor. But yes, you're absolutely right that these fit the bill. Long enough for some depth of topic but not overwhelming.
Thanks for the comment.

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